BILLIONAIRES' 'SPACE RACE' BREWS AS BRANSON TEASES VIRGIN GALACTIC FLIGHT BEFORE BEZOS
Richard Branson may be the first of the space firm founders to actually make it to space in the flesh, Mike Brown reported for Inverse.
Following the announcement of Blue Origin founder, Jeff Bezos, that he would fly on the firm’s first crewed mission scheduled for July 20 with his brother, Parabolic Arc reported that Virgin Galactic is planning to send Branson on a suborbital flight over the July 4 holiday weekend.
The plot twist marks the emergence of a new form of space race between companies’ founders - riding their firm’s own creations. Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and SpaceX have all worked to expand spaceflight to civilians — so a flight for the founders is perhaps the next logically obvious leap.
Nevertheless, Branson congratulated Bezos in a Twitter post while teasing his own flight, saying:
Many congratulations to @JeffBezos & his brother Mark on announcing spaceflight plans. Jeff started building @blueorigin in 2000, we started building @virgingalactic in 2004 & now both are opening up access to Space - how extraordinary! Watch this space…
The report from Parabolic Arc claims that Virgin Galactic needs to obtain clearance from the Federal Aviation Authority to fly Branson, as the firm is currently only allowed to fly employees for tests rather than for commercial purposes.
Virgin Galactic has also reportedly started planning the flight in response to Blue Origin’s initial announcement of a first crewed flight.
Although details are not yet concrete, Branson is supposedly expected to fly on the SpaceShipTwo rocket dubbed VSS Unity.
The rocket flew as recently as May 22. The VMS Eve aircraft took off from Spaceport America in New Mexico carrying VSS Unity. Around one hour after liftoff, the aircraft released the rocket. The rocket fired its engines and reached an altitude of around 55.45 miles.
The VSS Unity rocket is designed to carry six people throughout a two-hour suborbital flight. They will experience weightlessness for several minutes before returning to Earth.